LIVERPOOL find themselves back in the Champions League after a comfortable aggregate victory by six goals to three over Hoffenheim, winning the return leg by four goals to two.
In reality, having found themselves three goals to good within 21 minutes of the second leg having already secured a 2-1 away win in Germany, what remained of the last 80 minutes of the tie was no more than a procession.
But it all could have been so different, a nervy Liverpool crowd going into a second leg of arguably the biggest game of Jurgen Klopp’s tenure with only a slender one-goal lead to protect could have been a recipe for disaster.
Anfield can be its own biggest enemy, fear and doubt can strangle the life out of an atmosphere and transmit doubt on to the pitch, nails gnawed and demons festering in minds that have seen it all before.
A deserved victory in Hoffenheim had barely been celebrated before minds started swirling at the potential minefield of the home leg, an early goal for Hoffenheim and everything was on the line.
On paper and bookies odds showed a straightforward fixture for The Reds, but as ever the game has never been on paper.
Liverpool needed a hero, a man to cast doubt casts asunder, to reassure the restless and fire up Anfield into an indomitable inferno, someone who could inspire Anfield and cast all doubts asunder.
Step forward Julian Nagelsmann, the bright new thing of the Bundesliga.
What is the equivalent to “pin it on the wall” in modern football, do they print off webpages or superglue an iPad to the wall?
Whatever it is, Nagelsmann’s words after the first leg did the trick and then some.
I doubt Jurgen had to utter a single word, just merely wave at an expensive Apple product bosticked to the wall, making sure he touches it every minute or so save it timing out to lock screen and having to input the code to unlock it.
Liverpool are never more dangerous than when they’re in the mood to put someone in their place and having gone into the game calling into question not only the quality of this Liverpool side but also the reputation of one of the most famous arenas of European football, the bright new hope of German football got sent for Der Spiegel with his tail well and truly between his skinny jeans tonight.
Liverpool simply blew away Hoffenheim within 21 minutes of the return leg, going after their opponents that belied the importance of what was at stake.
That The Kop felt able to roll out the songbook as early as 22 minutes was a damning indictment of the 30-year-old coach’s team whose charges who ended the two-legged tie on the end of a 6-3 defeat.
Nagelsmann is a fine coach who has achieved phenomenal results for someone so young, but the outcome of this qualifier will be a sobering result.
He also isn’t the first, and he certainly won’t be the last to question the power of Anfield, a stadium which is never more threatening than when it’s being called into question.
Roll on the Champions League Reds.